For most people, undergrad is a time for figuring yourself out. A lot of students go straight to college after high school. Even those who wait often go to school after a year or two.
Undergrad is a place where you can take core classes and figure out where your true academic passions lie. Grad school is a little more complicated. Instead of being a place for figuring yourself out, it’s a place for becoming an expert at what you do. Of course, grad school isn’t the only way to do this. Only a fraction of students with four-year degrees actually go on to get a master’s degree. But if you do want to go back to school, how do you decide what to pursue as a graduate student?
It’s important to choose the right field because of how specialized graduate school is. If you decide that you want to study something else, it’s not as easy to transfer credits as it was in undergrad. The specialization is also why picking the right school is so important. Some schools have programs and staff that cater to one niche field of interest. The value of studying with top experts in your field cannot be understated.
Grad students are eligible for federal aid through the FAFSA. If you find that you still have financial needs after maxing out scholarships for your dream school, you can take out graduate student loans using a private lender. These should cover the remaining costs of tuition, books, transport, and board as you study. If you feel like you don’t have anything you’re passionate enough about to warrant another four years of study, it might be best to hold off on grad school. You can always come back to academia if you find that passion later.
Questions for Choosing
Maybe you’re certain that you want to keep studying, but you’re not sure where to direct your focus. If that’s the case, you can ask yourself questions like:
- What did you find most interesting in undergrad?
- If you could learn more about anything from undergrad, what would it be?
- What is it that interests you about these things?
- Do you know any experts in this field? Do you want to?
- Would you be interested in doing self-directed study and contributing to this field?
What’s most important is that you choose a field that you will actually enjoy learning about. Similarly, it should be a field that you want to devote your time and contribute through research and academia.
Selecting a School
If you know what field you want to study, your next step is choosing the right school for you. Obviously, it’s best to gear toward schools with graduate programs in your chosen field. Find out where some of the foremost experts teach. Are their programs worth investing in? Keep in mind that you want to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about the same things you are. The best grad schools are areas where knowledge thrives.